Real Action on Climate Change

Derrick Crowe stands with local climate change activists to push financial institutions to divest from fossil fuels at a protest in Austin, Texas. 

Derrick Crowe stands with local climate change activists to push financial institutions to divest from fossil fuels at a protest in Austin, Texas. 

The Goal: A Net-Zero Carbon Economy by 2035

In the Paris climate agreement, the United States joined with other countries to agree to hold “the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels...” We said we would "undertake rapid reductions thereafter in accordance with best available science...on the basis of equity," meaning the developed world should go fossil free faster than the developing world so that the poorest people in the world don't pay the price for our fossil fuel sins. 

Here's the catch: In order to do these things, experts like Kevin Anderson tell us the U.S. and other developed countries have to transition to net-zero carbon emission by 2035. 

That means we have to act urgently, as if we are in a crisis--because we are. Below is Derrick's plan to lay the foundation for the climate justice transition. 

(This plan is complemented by Derrick's support for a national jobs guarantee and College for All, both of which would ensure displaced workers have the right to a job if they lose it during the clean energy revolution while making retraining opportunities available through a tuition-free college system.)

Require the Federal Government to Get Off Fossil Fuels

Our government is a huge source of carbon emissions, and that means Congress can have a huge impact by requiring the government to get its act together. Derrick's plan would require federal agencies, Congress, and the courts to produce plans to replace internal combustion engines with electric vehicles by 2030 and to go net-carbon-zero in their operations by 2035.

A Progressive Carbon Fee to Go Fossil Free

Carbon fee proposals have picked up momentum among climate change activists because they prevent fossil fuel companies from socializing the costs of burning fossil fuels while privatizing the gains. Derrick believes it's critical that we not only impose a carbon fee on fossil fuels, but prevent the revenue generated by the fee from being diverted from its true purpose: promoting climate-friendly behavior and powering a fast transition to a zero-carbon economy. 

Derrick's proposal would:

  • Implement a carbon fee and dividend system based on a carbon fee that begins at $15/metric ton in 2019 and escalates to $68/metric ton by 2035. Thereafter, the fee would grow at 5%, plus the rate of inflation. This would be paid as a direct dividend to households earning under $100,000.

  • A Green Transition carbon fee would levy an additional fee per ton of carbon, starting at $10/metric ton in 2019 and increasing 2% per year. Funds collected under this fee would be used to increase the Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) R&D budgets specifically in the areas of electric vehicle (EV) battery production costs, performance, charging speed, and engine efficiency. (Past rates of return in EERE’s investments have yielded an overall annual ROI of more than 20 percent in terms of net economic benefits.)  

Help States and Localities Get Off Fossil Fuels and Prepare for Climate Change Impacts

In the absence of strong federal action on climate change under Trump, many activists are turning their attention to states and municipalities to make progress on carbon emissions. When we do, we often find our states' infrastructures aren't ready for the storms and floods to come, and our municipalities are often locked into long-term contracts with fossil fueled power companies.

Derrick's proposal would assist states in preparing for the onset of climate change effects while helping them get off fossil fuels. He would: 

  • Impose a carbon equivalency fee on imports of carbon pollution-intensive goods. The funds from this fee would be divided annually in the following ways:

    • 50 percent to EPA administrator to:

      • Fund state and local programs to adapt to climate change, improve the resilience of critical infrastructure, and transition public utilities to renewable power

      • Assist localities with buyouts or early termination fees from contracts with fossil-fuel-based energy producers

    • 50 percent to the Secretary of Transportation to:

      • Fund state and local programs that assist communities in improving the resilience of critical infrastructure

      • Fund projects that assist in the rapid adoption of light duty EVs.

Implement a Carbon Freeze

Bill McKibben shook up the progressive community with his landmark article, "Global Warming's Terrifying New Math," back in 2012. Bill showed that the science indicated that from 2012 onward, humankind could only emit 565 gigatons of carbon into the atmosphere by mid-century before we blow the "carbon budget," or the amount of carbon we can emit before we push the climate into a global warming catastrophe. Here's the problem and the crisis in a nutshell: though we can only emit 565 gigatons, the proven fossil fuel reserves in 2012 contained 2,795 gigatons of carbon. We cannot even burn what we have in our reserves, much less add to our plans to emit more carbon. We have to stop adding to our climate disaster stockpile. 

Derrick's plan would reckon with this reality by legislating into law the recommendations made by Oil Change International in their Sept. 2016 report, “The Sky’s Limit”: “No new fossil fuel extraction or transportation infrastructure should be built, and governments should grant no new permits for them.”

End the Era of the Internal Combustion Engine

In 2014, there were more than 250 million passenger vehicles in the United States, most of which were powered by gasoline-driven internal combustion engines. Those vehicles represent a built-in set of emissions that must be retired as fast as possible and replaced with electric vehicles and mass transit powered by clean energy. At the same time, we have to stop fooling ourselves about ethanol, and start incentivizing electric vehicles instead. 

Here's Derrick's proposal to drive us there: 

  • Increase CAFE standards every year to reach 101 miles/gallon of gasoline equivalent by 2035.

  • Replace the Renewable Fuel Standard with an Alternative Fuel Standard that requires 95% of miles driven be attributed to electricity by 2035.

  • End fossil fuel and ethanol subsidies and convert them to electric vehicle (EV) conversion incentives. This would provide $21.3 billion/year to provide investment tax credits and federal loan guarantees for EV manufacturing, charging station construction, and EV battery recycling.

  • Task the Department of Energy with coordinating the onlining of EV charging infrastructure with availability of EV vehicles.

Make Immediate Gains by Increasing Energy Efficiency

While we work on R&D for new climate-friendly technologies, we can start making immediate, real gains simply by investing in energy efficiency and weatherization. And, if we target our investments, we can make sure that low-income communities see the gains and cost-savings first. 

Derrick's plan would implement deep building- and appliance-efficiency efforts:

  • Scale-up home energy efficiency upgrade programs at the Weatherization Assistance Program to a total of $12.5 billion/year. This would provide energy efficiency upgrades to 2.75 million low-income homes/year.

  • Launch $12.5 billion/year program for fuel switching in home appliances and energy use from natural gas and other fossil fuels to electricity for low-income households.

Permanently Extend Tax Credits for Renewable Energy

Prior to major push-back from the clean energy industry, the GOP tax scam bill threatened to end tax credits for electric vehicles, solar, and wind energy. Along the lines proposed in the OFF Act, Derrick would permanently extend the tax credits for solar and wind facilities, make them refundable, and ensure they cover both on- and off-shore wind facilities.